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Review of Hello, Universe

Hello, Universe
by Erin Entrada Kelly
Intermediate, Middle School    Greenwillow    314 pp.
3/17    978-0-06-241415-1    $16.99    g
e-book ed.  978-0-06-241417-5    $9.99

Virgil Salinas is shy and bullied at school. Since he doesn’t know his multiplication tables, his nasty classmate Chet Bullens, a.k.a. “the Bull” (your standard-issue middle-school bully), repeatedly calls him “retardo.” Valencia Somerset, who goes to the resource room with Virgil, feels like an outsider because she’s deaf: “on my tenth birthday, this girl Roberta gave me a book called Famous Deaf People from History. I would have never given Roberta a book called Famous Blond People or Famous People Who Talk Too Much.” Kaori Tanaka is a self-proclaimed psychic who provides fortunetelling to other middle schoolers and who counsels Virgil to befriend Valencia (“That’s fate! It’s like you were meant to be friends!”). Around halfway through the book, Chet drops Virgil’s backpack into an abandoned well, and Virgil gets stuck trying to retrieve it. Kaori and Valencia both have a feeling something is off and go to investigate. Told in alternating perspectives of the three kid-heroes and one villain, the story is strongest when dealing with Virgil, whose internal monologue while stuck in the well has him working out how to speak up for himself. While the ending may be a bit too tidy, the children’s inner lives are distinctive, and each rings true.

From the March/April 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Sarah Hannah Gómez About Sarah Hannah Gómez

Sarah Hannah Gómez holds an MA in children’s literature and an MS in library and information science from Simmons College and is working toward a PhD in children’s and adolescent literature at the University of Arizona. She blogs at shgmclicious.com.

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